Friday, April 11, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Problems of plenty: a solution

Apropos the editorial “Problems of plenty”, where in the problem of glut of potatoes has been highlighted and how the potatoes would be rotting for want of demand. This will ruin the farmers, most of whom are already in heavy debt. To make agriculture viable, a total view of the agricultural scene needs to be taken. The entire world over agriculture is treated as a commercial venture and is given all the financial, managerial, technological and other support as to any industry, whereas in India it is not treated as such. Because of this mindset, there is hardly any linkage amongst planning, production, processing marketing and feedback for a subsequent such cycle.

Now coming to potatoes, there is an urgent need to adopt an unconventional approach in this regard for the conventional use of potatoes will not yield any different dividends from the ones we have already seen. The only unconventional and workable approach as a diversification is to use potatoes for the manufacture of alcohol. Potatoes are used in the manufacture of Vodka. Vodka has a vast and ready market both within the country and abroad, given the suitable promotional inputs.

Also potatoes are being used in many countries for the manufacture in various forms of liquor which go by many names e.g “Snaps” and Ecquavitte in Scandanavian countries and “Ouzo” in Greece. Similarly, potatoes can be used to manufacture commercial alcohol, which can be used in many ways. Already Maharashtra is reportedly planning to use sugarcane-based alcohol as a vehicle fuel after mixing it with petrol to help their sugarcane farmers. Initially, they are planning mixing 5% of alcohol, which will later be increased to 10% Brazil is using alcohol as a vehicle fuel to the tune of 25%, this mixture being called “gasohol”. If we adopt this unconventional approach, both the potato and sugarcane producers will be benefited in a very big way.


Potatoes are a very rich diet for piggery. Pigs are god’s best machine to convert food into pork; as much as 25% of the feed is converted into pork by weight. Agriculture by the dictionary definition is “Raising of crops and live-stock”. Unfortunately, we have almost completely neglected the livestock arm of the agriculture. That, of course, is a different story.

If entrepreneurs, including NRIs, set up plants to manufacture “table alcohol and commercial alcohol from potatoes and sugarcane, not only will they enrich themselves, but also pass on their prosperity to poor farmers as well, who need it so badly. Any takers?

Brig HARWANT SINGH (retd), Mohali

Growers’ exploitation

Congratulations on addressing the problems of potato growers in the news item “Traders syndicate exploit farmers” (April 3) by Chander Parkash. Such coverage increases the confidence of the general masses that the Press is a ray of hope for curbing corruption and lawlessness.

Our potato markets are manipulated by an obnoxious cartel of traders and cold store owners. This cartel tends to make the market either artificially depressed or elevated. Last year there was a sudden spurt in the potato prices in the name of failure of potato crop in Karnataka. Karnataka accounts for just 2 per cent of the total potato production in India, while the price rise was manyfold.

The current year’s low potato prices also seem to be artificially depressed otherwise the expected losses in the potato yield due to heavy rain in Punjab during February didn’t possess the potential of raising the prices from Rs 180/80 kg to Rs 600/80 kg. Similarly, when the yields were not observed to be down to the expected level, the fall in prices to the level of Rs 120/80 kg was again not justified.

In the present days of globalisation, we can’t expect our potato growers to tap international markets when the marketing environment allows such people to fix prices based on their convenience rather than the demand and supply forces. In the absence of a minimum support price or adequate market intervention schemes, Indian potatoes are experiencing wide price fluctuations which are not in the interest of producers as well as consumers. The Indian potato has a tremendous export potential, but if the regulatory bodies continue to play the role of silent spectators, then not only the potato growers, but also the entire nation will have to face the consequences.


Income from pilgrimage

This has reference to the letter of the Saudi Ambassador (April 5).

In my 50 years as a journalist, I do not remember having fabricated a news. Yes, I have used the “news” provided by others. My only consideration has been: is the source likely to be professional? In this case, both American and Muslim sources have written on the advantages that the Saudis derive from the Haj.

There is a whole history to back up my belief. The Quraish objected to the new religion of Islam because they feared that they would lose the income from the pilgrimage. Which, by the way, is why the Prophet instituted the Haj to placate the Quraish, his own tribe.

It is a fact that the Vatican receives a huge amount from Christian pilgrimage. So does Tirupathi from Hindu pilgrimage.

I am not disputing what the Saudi Ambassador says. He may well be right. But look at the facts.

M.S. N. MENON, Delhi

MiGs: ‘ho sake to lot ke aana’

Due to the routine crashes of our MiGs, it would be better for the Air Force authorities to make public and publicise the flight schedule of all MiG, so that the citizens living near airports can get into trenches for their safety.

Or strike a deal with the US Air Force that we can send MiGs to be used in Iraq on such and such payment.

After every MiG flight, the crew left behind should pray to God: O jaane waale ho sake to lot ke aana.




The Galiara scheme

Your news story “No more funds for Galiara scheme" (April 10) is not correct in so far as it pertains to the scheme. It appears to be a product of some misunderstanding. In fact, what I had said was to the contrary. I had emphasised that the Central Government was very keen to make Amritsar a thriving hub of culture, tourism and clean civic life, and gave details of the various schemes initiated by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture. I also made it clear that I would take up the matter pertaining to the Galiara scheme with the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is dealing with the issue.

JAGMOHAN, Union Minister for Tourism & Culture, New Delhi 



Punjab revisited after 20 years

I am a Canadian citizen. Recently I had an opportunity to revisit Punjab after 20 years. It was a very pleasant experience seeing Punjab rise to the modern ways of high technology. The standard of living in general has gone very high. I was so happy to see that almost each household at Moga has either a scooter or a car. People use telephones, TV, stereos, washing machines as we do in Canada.

I drove from Moga to Raikot. There were broad green fields on either side of the road. However, the road from Moga to Ludhiana was terrible. On my return, I saw some repair work had begun on this particular road. Some engineers at Ludhiana have used vision to build an overpass, like the one in San Francisco.

The population has also increased. Among the youngsters there is a craze for going abroad. It is not wrong to think of finding better opportunities in life, wherever and whenever possible. However, the young people of Punjab should be very clear that it takes time and real hard work to get adapted to the Western culture and way of life. I have instances where people ruined their careers by coming here.

That is one reason that in a recent Punjabi movie “Jee Aayan Nu” the hero never wished to emigrate to Canada. But he also said that with the increasing population, the land holdings are getting smaller and smaller because with each new generation the same piece of land gets divided further. Can the Punjabis then think of controlling the population?



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